The F*ck Up
~ Starring ~
Jason Rosette………..As the Filmmaker
Stephen Rubin………As the Director, Santa Fe Film Festival
Jon Bowman…………As the Elusive Founder, Santa Fe Film Festival
Dr. Alan Rice………..Actor-Physicist gone Haywire
~ with Other Special Guests ~
[**Not recommended for readers with weak stomachs**]
Withoutabox* bulletin board when I sought feedback regarding the mishandled New Mexico
screening of our 100% local NM feature, (No SEX For) SUSAN HERO* at the 2007 Santa Fe
Film Festival. It really was a very disappointing incident which I hope everyone can learn from. [* then working title, now called LOST IN NEW MEXICO: the strange tale of Susan Hero]
Anyway, I felt compelled, for the sake of truthfulness, to include additional the material which transpired behind the scenes, via emails between myself and the WAB moderator and
Basically, the moderator of the WAB board (Noah Kadner) shut down the thread before I
had a chance to clarify what actually went down*–
decent guy who I knew from my NM days when I was a behind-the-scenes shooter on his
feature, had closed the WAB thread before allowing us a chance to objectively tell our
whole side of the story; when I asked him to allow us to post again to clarify, he refused. As a result, we posted that entire WAB discussion here on the Camerado blog as a
workaround, including some other material (emails) as well for the sake of transparency. When Noah found out that we’d posted this material on our blog, he complained about us
“posting his private emails”. I pointed out that an email or a letter or other correspondence
is shared between sender and recipient, and as such is actually the property of both
(as you’d see in any bookstore when you find a “collected letters” book.)
I mentioned to him that (on the contructive side of things) he might in any case better understand our own distress in light of his
perceived misuse of his email, since in our case, an ENTIRE FEATURE FILM
misused/premiered without our knowledge…there was no reponse to this point.]
ANYWAY: I would have been happy and excited to screen SUSAN HERO at the Santa Fe Film Festival under any other normal circumstances, but it was incredibly dissapointing to hear that, just after I’d returned back from the US at great expense (specifically in part to try to get a screening in New Mexico) there had in fact been a screening of the movie…
But I’d never been asked or informed, and I only just found out about it through another actor friend in New Mexico who emailed me to mention “a screening”, and then I followed up by Googling around til I learned about it.** If anyone can honestly explain that it’s OK to have a festival premiere your feature (that you’ve worked on for years, while insisting you make the movie with only local talent from your state because you view that as important for development of the local industry) without actually
1) seeking your permission or
2) even letting you know about it
(just after you’ve headed back 10,000 miles after trying as best you could to get a screening in your homestate, so that the talent and everyone else involved in the movie could finally see their finished work…)
while the festival actually nontheless goes ahead and collects box office/ticket money, and even makes posters for advertising the screening, after you’re gone, without even having the courtesy to send an email to let you know about the screening…
and on top of this, shortly afterwards, you learn that the festival actually had some antipathy towards you for some (benign as it turns out) outreach you’d sent via a letter to the Governor’s Film office–not to the festival, mind you, but a totally separate third party–then I would stand corrected for everything I’ve felt, said, or done regarding this issue **
That just doesn’t make sense to me or a lot of other folks in New York or LA or the rest of the industry who also wondered what happened. Whether the movie’s great or not, whether the filmmaker is big or not, whether you agree with what the filmmaker has to say, personally or otherwise: that’s no way to handle things. It’s not ethical, it’s not constructive, and it’s just plain wrong.
As mentioned, I’d just been in the US that same summer specifically to try to screen the movie, in person, in New Mexico and I could have easily extended my return flight in order to attend the NM premiere.
But no one at the festival actually ever requested my permission to show the movie; an actor had submitted on his own, apparently it to “Cinema cafe staff” [in his words]–who also apparently operate the Santa Fe Film festival, though I never could determine this for sure–despite my express instructions to him not to do any submissions of the title to any venues.
(I’d asked the actor to look around for venues while he was in New Mexico and let me know about them–money was so tight for me that summer, after travelling all the way back from Asia, that I just couldn’t afford to head to New Mexico to put together a screening unless I had a strong lead first)
But most importantly–and disappointingly–no one from the festival even bothered to let me know it would be screening, something that could have nearly effortlessly been accomplished via a simple email*
(*or Facebook message; in a weird twist, it turns out that fest staffer Stephen Rubin had requested to be a friend of mine on Facebook well before the whole debacle took place…didn’t know who he was at the time but I said, sure, and let him be a Facebook friend, why not? Anyway, you can image what it may have been like–after all this, sorting through the wreckage of the blown NM premiere and all the fruitless attempts to get Stephen to clarify what happened, after the event–to find a picture and profile for a Stephen Rubin on my list of Facebook friends! WTF?).
To continue: I only later found out by Google searching that SUSAN HERO had actually played, a few weeks after I’d headed back to Asia…not the way I’d wanted to “bring the movie home” as a local NM filmmaker, with filmmaking actitivities in NM dating back as far as 1993.
Finally, it was later revealed that festival staff had been, according to the actor who submitted the film, distressed at outreach I’d done to the Governor’s Film office a short while earlier (although I’m not sure how my communications with the Governor’s film office would have also rightfully been the business of the festival…in any case, the fest staff specifically mentioned what a troublemaker I’d been, sending a “letter to the Governor’s office.”)
I’m not sure they actually ever read the letter, it seems like they were just making some big (and erroneous) assumptions. That letter, in which I’d written which stated my eager desire to achieve a screening in New Mexico while I was still in the US that summer, happened to be benign; I was pretty careful to make it as reasonable and as polite as possible.
** As a result, the letter is posted on this blog under another entry for anyone to look at, to dispell notions that I’d somehow undertaken some disturbing or offensive communication. **
Anyway, the festival staff appeared to be angry about the letter I’d written and although they never addressed that issue when I asked them about it after the fact; but it’s been confimed by Alan Rice, the actor who went ahead and met with them (despite my instructions).
To this date I still haven’t received any response from the festival staff when I asked them about this issue with the letter…
In any case, there appears to be some linkage between the fest’s reaction to that benign letter I’d sent (again, not to them, so therefore not really their business–still can’t figure out why they’d even consider this to be an issue related to their operations) and the pretty significant mishandling of a local NM filmmaker’s work. Which would be significantly unethical, beyond an actual “mistake” or communications error…that would be a willing “diss” of a filmmaker’s work, not to mention the copyright/public performance issues involved.
(When I asked them to please clarify this, I was met with non-response.)
Never mind that I’d been working in New Mexico as far back as 1993, then again in the mid 90’s on the Gotham Award nominated feature, BOOKWARS–long before “Tamalewood” had become a hot location.
Didn’t matter that SUSAN HERO, when it was in production in 2003, was the ONLY movie shooting in New Mexico after a Shirley McClain movie had fallen through. Didn’t matter that I insisted on using only NM talent and actors in the production, and that I set up a pretty decent resrouce to assist talent in NM, the NM Talent Group at Yahoo.
Didn’t mattter: I had the audacity to do outreach to the Governor’s office and so I guess I had to be put in my place for whatever (ultimately imaginary) offenses!
Anyway, when I asked the original board moderator Noah, whose own movie had screened at Santa Fe Fest a couple years earlier, to allow further clarification on the WAB board, he declined; so I felt obliged to make those clarifications here on the Camerado blog.
My ultimate goal is not to unduly skewer the festival or the actor or to assign any undue blame; but, now that my intentions and reputation have been attacked, I feel there’s nothing unethical about being as open and as honest as possible out this whole issue, so that whoever’s interested can learn from the process firsthand.
Another goal is, ironically, to defend myself from any wrong action in all this, as some folks who were involved in the scenario have so far attempted to make me as filmmaker/producer somehow culpable for the mishandling of my own screening (!)
It’s too bad really…I had a real interest in the development of the NM production scene, dating as far back as the early 90’s.
The Lesson: Seems though, that if you’re going to be vocal about something–no matter how delicate or diplomatic your approach–there’ll be some folks who disagree with you; if those folks, as in the case of the Santa Fe fest, happen to be misinformed about or second guess your motives, then the result is that you might find yourself “dissed” for no good reason–“dissed” to the point that your work is screened without your knowledge, without the basic minimal respect allowable to an filmmaker who’s worked hard on his creation.
If you react to that in any way short of greasing yourself up and bending over, then you’re deemed to be “difficult” (?!)
Anyway, for the sake of truth and fairness, I have sought to make the facts available so that, if anyone’s interested, they may at least see the mechanics behind how the situation unfolded…
** Additional/behind the scenes material is included IN RED as emails sent between myself and Noah; otherwise the thread is as it appears on the WAB bulletin board, “Festival Cafe” **
(It may be interesting to see the differences… 😉 )
12-15-2007, 07:10 AM
(This is actually a question I have as a filmmaker, since we also run a fest called CamboFest…but this is regarding my second, recently completed feature, SUSAN HERO, and I would appreciate any feedback you might offer)
I’ve recently had a pretty questionable/not-good experience with an established fest in my homestate of New Mexico–will leave name out for now unless WABers deem it useful to know.
In short, they screened my movie 1) without getting my permission or 2) even notifying me. I only actually found out it had played after an actor emailed me to say how much he liked seeing the movie! (so I Googled around and found it had played)
What had happened is this: an actor associated with the project had taken a screener to the fest office and persuaded them to screen it–then paid the entry fee and submitted the entry materials (without my permisson or knowing it)
Now, the actor then told me he’d done some outreach to some folks at this fest, but I didnt know he’d gone that far. I’d asked him to look around while I was in my homestate and see if he could find some venues where I could do an IN-PERSON screening, even if that were only an art gallery, warehouse, etc.
Basically, I needed to do the screening while I was in the US, in person (as part of the strategy to network and pitch the next project) and I was willing to do that wherever we could.
Anyway, the actor tells me he’s got it to some folks who might be able to screen it later on–still, I remind him that I want to do the screening only if I could attend in-person.
** NOW HERE’S THE KICKER: In order to ward off any possibility of the fest screening the movie without telling / informing me [they didn’t actually even have the latest cut], I tracked down the fest staffers and emailed them to tell them that, while I appreciated their interest in showing the movie:
1) they didn’t have the final cut of the and 2) they should contact me, not the actor, regarding any screening and 3) I really, really (my diplomatic phrasing for MUST) want to be at my homestate premiere in-person to network and pitch future projects
In any case, I was very diplomatic, and I thought I’d done adequate outreach and never would have suspected they’d go ahead and show it anyway–in any case, the burden should not be on filmmaker, correct (?) to have to track down venues who MIGHT have the movie and then make sure they’re diligent about securing performance rights–no?
So, compounding all this was the fact that I’d just been in the US for the first time in over a year (I live in Asia, where, by the way, I direct a movie festival in Cambodia called CamboFest – seehttp://www.cambofest.com)/.
I’d been trying like mad to get that IN-PERSON screening in my homestate while I was still in the US, so that I could not only enjoy seeing my movie play in person, at a festival for the first time [since I live far away and can’t reasonably travel to see it play at fests, so far at least] but also do some crucial networking and pitch my next feature script–which, like the feature movie in question, would be shot in my homestate as well, as I’d always been a strong proponent of making local productions.
In short: I’d been in the US trying to get the in-person screening, could not make that happen, then headed back to Asia to hear a festival had gone ahead and shown it ANYWAY without actually getting my permission or notifying me.
My reaction when I found out: anger, betrayal, violation of my right to decide where and when my movie gets shown.
When I approached the fest, they were pretty dismissive, saying it was basically the actors fault. And that they were sorry they didn’t notify me. But they did not acknowledge the emails I’d sent in advance, trying to avoid this very situation.
On top of this, a poster for the movie was made (by someone) and was hanging in the Film Commission office, as reported to me by one of the other actors. So it appears that they even went so far as to make a poster, which I had no input in making,yet they didn’t even bother to ask/tell filmmaker? It’s mindnumbing…
Or is this just me? I’ve been making movies and submitting to fests for a long time, but nothing like this has ever happened.
Anyway, I’ve asked so far to get as a minimum, a copy of the submission materials the actor used to submit the movie, but even that is not forthcoming yet after numerous attempts, and my patience is really wearing thin.
SO HERE’S MY QUESTION–
*** What is an appropriate reaction/course of action on my part? ***
*** Is fest ultimately culpable, despite their claim that actor “persuaded them” to show the movie, and even, despite actor–so they claim–having submitted the paperwork and presented himself as authorized copyright representative? ***
It just seems so weird, even the fact that I contacted them way in advance, to avoid this very kind of problem–
Items I’ve thought about as potential “payback” might be: 1) guaranteed future screening 2) usuable PR quote from the fest 3) box office/rental fee for the screening.
I’ve of course been in touch with some legal folks, and they all basically state I have some legal claims. But, I also want to play this as reasonably as possible–without getting shafted, of course.
In any case, even at our emerging fest, CamboFest, we’re always very, very diligent about getting proper screening rights.
Thanks for any thoughts, advice, suggestions,
J Rosette ~ CAMERADO
Moviemaker * Producer * Director
BOOKWARS (“Terrific”- LA Times”) 2000
HOLLYWOOD BLACKOUT 2006
No SEX For SUSAN HERO (“An excellent achievement” – Sydney Underground Film Festival) 2007
CamboFest: Film and Video Festival of Cambodia
Cambotube!: “The YouTube of Cambodia’
Cambodia 855 012 194 2702
Thailand 66 081 617 9240
PO Box 707
12000 Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA
Obviously, there’s no question that the festival screwed up, based on what you’re telling us. It sounds as though you clearly told them that they didn’t have permission to show your film, so it’s hard to see how they could justify it (regardless of an actor submitting it). On a practical level, though, I suspect you would find it impossible to show that you suffered any damages because of what they did. Without being able to show that you’ve suffered specific damage (i.e., lost money in some way), I don’t think you have a legal claim that is worth pursuing. Yes, you could prove copyright infringement, but it wouldn’t be worth it, since damages would be zero.
I’m not an attorney, so you might get different advice from an attorney. For practical purposes, though, I would simply let it go as a bad experience and move on. You’re not going to be able to change what happened. You’re not going to recover damages (since there aren’t any). So why waste your time pursuing it? The best you can do is let other people (here and elsewhere) know about your bad experience with this festival. Just tell us which festival it was so people can decide for themselves if this incident is enough to keep people from doing business with the festival. (If the festival wants to tell its side of the story, that would be good, too.)
I agree with David, although they need to know they stuffed up – big time.
If they didn’t screen the final cut then surely that means your premiere status is still intact? I’d see it that way.
On the topic of posters, if we believed we had the rights to screen a film we very often make one off posters promoting that particular film (& screening) so we can market it to a target audience (whale films at the environment centre etc). Maybe that’s the kind of poster your friend saw?
Anyway all that aside it sucks – bigtime. You deserved to have your first screening they way you wanted it and the fact that you tried to make contact and got no-where only makes that festival’s mess-up worse. I think you should name them, enough festivals have their flaws exposed here on the boards, why protect these guys – and filmmakers have a right to know which festivals won’t make the effort to answer an important email.
They must have liked your film to screen it. Tell them your goals and see if they will work with you in that regard.
If the relationships are not spoiled, why not turn this into a positive experience and ask them to help you arrange and co-host a future screening (to make up for the opportunity you missed), and to provide an invitation list from their database (in addition to your own.)
You might even consider making it a charity event and ask for a small donation from attendees.
You can arrange your desired pitching sessions around the screening or in another location.
If the festival is connected to your local community you want them to be your allies. They probably have resources in the area, or can help you more easily connect to a general audience beyond the specific investors you might already know.
“We liked his film so much, we screened the rough cut illegally!”
On the serious side, I was pretty much thinking what David assessed while I was reading your story – you’re in the right, but it would be hard to prove or receive compensation for damages. Maybe if you could show a pattern of abuse and how numerous film deals have been garnered by finished films at this festival, then you could state a claim that the rough cut screening hurt your career possibilities, or something. But that’s probably a tough one to prove.
If you’re worried about loss of premiere status in the U.S., I think you could safely hold on to it by saying that was a works-in-progress screening.
Did they get the poster from the actor, or design it themselves? I don’t know the actor who approached the festival, but is it possible he represented himself as they say? Is he given to big, ambitious gestures? He may have felt he was doing you a favor by pushing the film, he may feel a propriety right to it (he’s in it, which is enough for most actors to call it ‘their’ film)…
It may be a case of misguided or overly enthusiastic actions on the part of one of your cast members, rather than the fest being too devious.
The emails asking them not to screen it are the worst part about the story, otherwise, I’d be tempted to say, “Hey, most people are thrilled to get into festivals.” But I know that’s no consolation when you feel ripped off or betrayed, and I don’t want to belittle your degree of upset. You have every right to be angry for a while, but in the grand scheme of things, you might benefit more from treating it as a simple misunderstanding (whether it was or not), and trying to garner some support from the festival.
Sorry to hear about your situation. On the bright side, they liked the rough cut enough to screen it as part of their festival, so the finished version must be great.
Good luck in the future – hope you’re able to get your funding and keep making films.
P.S. I posted this before seeing J’aimee or Joseph’s post on the subjects. I take too much time to type, I guess.
I had a similar experience. I submitted a film to a fest and when I wasn’t selected, called for feedback. I was told that they liked my film and it was too bad it had already screened and was hence, “not eligible.” After doing a little digging, I found that one of the actors, who was a volunteer at the fest, had arranged for a screening prior to the fest without telling me.
Them’s the breaks.
Winner: Best Narrative Short and Director’s Choice -Southern Winds Film Festival, 2007
Thanks for the feedback so far–
Yea, it is insightful to hear these perspectives; I’m aware of the realities of whatever legal angles there may be, which is why I want to stay “off that grid” unless there is a compelling reason for a lot of reasons you all have already mentioned.
Also: aside from being “right”, it seems like a lot of operations folks inside festivals (from my own experience as well) seem to be somehow immune from any sense of responsibility when it comes to something like this–my position has always been that it’s a 50-50 arrangement overall: the fest needs strong content, and the filmmakers need fests.
But the unfortunate REALITY is that even in a situation like this, the filmmaker can somehow end up as the bad guy / girl for even bringing this up, for calling a fest on something improper…in the foggy world of festival operations, basic facts get lost and suddenly the filmmaker who had his/her work shown in an improper fashion is labelled as a troublemaker, or “ungrateful”.
Which is why I appreciate the WAB feedback on this; I do want to handle this in a constructive, reasonable way.
Along the lines of having the festival itself [it’s the Santa Fe Film Festival, by the way] weigh in, I figure I’ll do this: I’ll wait for them to get back to me (so far I’ve been trying to contact them by phone, on my own dime, from Asia, and via many emails to resolve this–basically a completely one-sided communcation from me, though I’m the one who got the short end of the stick)
…and when they do get back to me, as they’ve assured me they would, I’ll let them know this discussion is ongoing on these boards and that they may want to give their perspective so as not to unfairly damage their reputation.
Thanks for the info so far,
BOOKWARS (“Terrific”- LA Times”) 2000
Cambodia 855 012 194 2702
Yes I have had a similar experience to this also! not as relentless though.
I submitted a film of mine to a online streaming provider, (as they got good coverage on there page and it seemed like a good idea). and about 2 months later a got an e-mail from a festival called West Garth Film Fest, saying that my film had been rejected, even without my submiting it.
Anyhow it turned out that one of the providers I submited it to, submited it to the festival without piror permission..
But when your a indie film maker, theres not really much you can do except put it down to a bad experience.
7 Offical Selections, 2 Awards
‘The Observer’ new post apocalyptic animation
Wow that’s a really bad experience. Shame on the actor for letting things go so far without your authorization. Unfortunately I can see the festival’s position on this one. There’s no festival that has the resources to research every festival submission they receive to make sure it’s coming from someone actually authorized to rep it. This is why I gave out exactly zero copies of my movie to anyone before I started submitting it.
In this case, I think the festival owes you a few things. Number one an apology for not connecting your communications about not showing the film with the actual scheduling of the film at the festival. Number two to change their website to clearly state that your film was not a premiere but a work in progress so that you don’t lose your premiere status. Although ultimately this is not as horrible as it sounds because you are going to lose it eventually anyway and you can still have a long festival run after the premiere at many festivals without premiere requirements.
As for further legal actions I would say you could take the actor himself to court for copyright violation but I would imagine you’d have a hard time proving any actual damages. Not to mention a good lawyer could probably take your communications with the actor and construe them in such a way to show the actor had a reasonable cause to think he was authorized to submit the film. In other words I think you’ll basically just ending up wasting a lot of time and legal fees with nothing gained.
The good news is that a festival liked your film enough to screen it. So now maybe it’s time to keep submitting it elsewhere and get on with your career.
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Sorry to hear this story Jason R.
And ditto to what Noah said. Shame on the actor-
Unless you gave this actor a producer credit, there should have been no reason for the festival to believe the actor was acting as an agent of the film (read: able to make deals, garner screenings, talk to distributors, etc.)
I work around this sort of thing happening by making it a firm policy to watermark all credit copies handed out to crew and cast, so no one has a ‘screenable’ copy, to act on anyone’s behalf at festivals, markets and/or with distributors-
In the meantime work on the film festival to get your premiere status refreshed…
Last edited by Shannonn K_175688 : 12-18-2007 at 09:17 PM.